Global reach: Horticulture director's blog hits 1,500 mark
JANESVILLE—In the past five years, Rotary Botanical Gardens Horticultural Director Mark Dwyer has written more than 550,000 words.
That's roughly the equivalent of novel the size of “War and Peace.” Fortunately for Dwyer's readers, his writing is easier to digest and his plot line—life at the gardens—is uncomplicated.
All that writing is taking place on the “Rotary Gardens Horticultural Blog,” and Dwyer's success is an object lesson in the value of persistence, social media and the evolving nature of nonprofit marketing.
Sometime this month, Dwyer will write his 1,500th blog post. He started more than five years ago, and at that time wasn't sure that the time and effort were worth it.
“The first year I did it, I almost gave up a couple of times,” Dwyer said. “I kept track of readership, and there wasn't a lot of it.”
What kept him going were the people who said, “Oh, I love your blog.”
“My original motivation was to write a blog for volunteers to help them keep up with what was going on in the gardens,” Dwyer said. “I never had a feeling for what the entire audience would be.”
The “entire audience” includes nurseries interested in using his photos, botanical gardens from around the country, and, of course, avid gardeners from around the globe.
Part of what drives the site visits are photos: He's posted more than 15,000. Because all are labeled, they come up in Google searches.
In the spring, summer and fall, the blog is about what's going on it in the gardens. In the winter, it's more general but also includes photos from the holiday light show.
Now that blogging has become a habit, Dwyer writes and posts photos almost every day he works. It takes 30 to 40 minutes, but he thinks that is time well spent.
“I can't quantify how many people it brings into the gardens, but I know it does bring them in,” Dwyer said. “It brings in a whole other audience.”
The blog averages about 300 hits a day.
Susan Melton, who does marketing for the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said social media marketing is necessary to stay relevant.
Websites give businesses and nonprofits a formal presence.
Social media provides the ongoing conversation about what's going at a business or nonprofit, and many people prefer that.
During a busy week, Rotary Botanical Gardens' Facebook page will garner as many as 8,000 unique engagements—people clicking “Like” or sharing or commenting on a post.
During a similar time period, the gardens Facebook page will reach as many as 20,000 people.